LOST in the glow of Terrence Romeo's career game on Sunday night were the heroics of two players.
Romeo's 30-point performance understandably got most of the attention after Far Eastern University's double-overtime win over University of the East, but there was no way the Tamaraws could've won what is considered one of the most thrilling UAAP games in years without the clutch plays of Gryann Mendoza and Mike Tolomia.
The Tams were staring at a 77-84 deficit in the final 23 seconds of the first overtime when Mendoza and Tolomia - both having trouble shooting consistently - made their move.
After a Romeo basket, Mendoza took advantage of a major lapse by the Red Warriors, intercepting an inbound pass by Adi Santos and then burying a three-pointer from the deep left corner to cut down UE's lead to 82-84.
Then Tolomia took over.
With FEU down by just three after Roi Sumang split his charities, the younger brother of former PBA player Chester Tolomia faked a hand-off to Romeo then buried a three-pointer that tied the game at 85-all and forced the second overtime.
FEU coach Nash Racela said the two exemplified the attitude he wants the Tamaraws to develop.
“That’s something that we are learning, playing through adversity,' Racela said. "Ganun talaga. We are faced with problems kahit sa buhay, but ang importante is you find a way to play through it. That’s what the whole team did.”
Ironically, both Mendoza and Tolomia made lapses in judgment that almost cost the match.
In the waning seconds of regulation and with the score tied at 70-all, Tolomia threw a pass that was way too high for a teammate for one of his team-high seven turnovers in the game that gave UE an opportunity to go for a game-winner.
Mendoza, meanwhile, missed several crucial shots including two of three free throws that would have closed the gap for the Tamaraws in the first overtime.
He was more than glad to be given the opportunity to atone.
“Naiinis din ako na ‘yung breaks, hindi napupunta sa amin. Wala akong ma-shoot. Thankful ako sa mga teammates ko na they were still setting me up, and they were sacrificing to share the ball,” said the 22-year-old Mendoza, who finished the game with 15 points and 13 rebounds on 5-of-14 shooting from the field.
"It’s a collective effort. Hindi ko magagawa ‘yun kung hindi dahil sa kanila."
Despite the fourth quarter miscue, Tolomia said he was still confident about his game.
“Siguro talagang buo lang ang loob ko nung huli,” Tolomia said. “Anticipated ko na i-de-deny nila si Terrence. Kung malibre si Terrence, ibibigay ko sa kanya. Kung ma-libre ako, ititira ko.”
Tolomia, who shot 5-of-18 from the field and had 13 points, seven rebounds, and six assists in the game, noted the importance of FEU breaking its two-game slump following the win over the Tamaraws.
“Kung matalo kami, baka tuluy tuloy na ‘yung pagkatalo namin. Maganda ‘yung pag-stop sa talo namin,” said Tolomia.